All posts by aaas119x393

Direct Trade & Ethically Sourced Chocolate

When biting into a Snickers chocolate bar, we typically do not think about the things that went into the making of the tasty treat, but when we consider the production process, the Snickers bar may not seem so delectable after all. Many big name chocolate companies are not very open about the sourcing of their products, leaving room for unfair labor practices. Today, there are a growing number of promising movements towards ethically sourced products including Fair Trade USA and Direct Trade. While Fair Trade USA has made an effort to make labor practices more fair for a number of products such as cacao, the Direct Trade movement is much more promising. Direct Trade definitely has the potential to impact chocolate makers and cacao farmers by moving towards ethically sourced chocolate, but the success of the movement lies in the transparency of each individual chocolate maker’s supply chain and the chocolate maker’s ability to maintain the high quality standard that has made the system popular today.

Movements such as Fair Trade USA are taking positive steps towards truly ethically sourced products, but not all certification systems maintain the high standards they initially set.  The video above highlights the idea that certifications like that of Fair Trade USA tend to make products more attractive than others by appealing to a consumer’s desire to feel they are doing some sort of good with their everyday purchases (Martin). This “feel good” advertising strategy convinces some consumers to flock to the sections of their grocery stores selling products with the Fair Trade USA logo, but many of these consumers are unaware of the impact their purchases are actually making. Fair Trade USA promises that “the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives”  (Fair Trade USA). While this goal is promising, a closer look at Fair Trade USA’s standards reveals that this certification is not enough to directly impact cacao farmers (Martin). That is, there is no guarantee that money from the purchase goes directly to farmers’ pockets. In fact, farmers must shoulder the high fees and other sub-charges that come with Fair Trade USA certification (Martin). This furthers the idea that very little money makes its way into farmers’ pockets if any at all. In addition, Fair Trade USA promises a fair minimum price for cocoa, but in reality it “barely differs from the current world market price” (Leissle). Further, Fair Trade USA commits to certifying “quality products,” but the system “does not require specific quality levels for certification” (Taza Chocolate). This creates no incentive for farmers to work towards producing quality cacao. Thus, the quality of Fair Trade USA certified cacao beans varies, and there is no room for farmers producing quality cacao to negotiate a higher price for their beans. Ultimately, Fair Trade USA’s commitments are misleading, and “lack of evidence of impact” makes their certification less appealing to informed consumers seeking ethically sourced products (Martin).

Meanwhile, Direct Trade moves beyond Fair Trade USA’s standards to create a clearer connection between cacao farmers and chocolate makers. The real hope is that Direct Trade can be the system that “make[s] for more ethical, sustainable production in an industry with a long history of exploitation” (Shute).Direct Trade has the potential to do so by eliminating the “middleman,” allowing chocolate makers to directly interact and negotiate with cacao farmers (Martin). This process makes it possible for chocolate makers to find the quality cacao beans they need, and it makes it possible to compensate farmers at a “premium price they should earn for the high quality cacao they produce” (Taza Chocolate). This system benefits both chocolate makers and cacao farmers as chocolate makers can seek farms that produce cacao beans with specific desired flavors and cacao farmers can negotiate for better prices for their beans. Direct Trade eliminates the fees that come with Fair Trade USA certification, and due to the direct interaction between farmers and chocolate makers, individual farms are not obligated to join a cooperative (Martin). These details highlight solutions the Direct Trade model has made to some of Fair Trade’s inconsistencies, making Direct Trade more appealing to those seeking ethically sourced products. The video above points out some differences between Fair Trade and Direct Trade, but it ignores key aspects about the two systems detailed in the paragraphs above. According to this video, Fair Trade and Direct Trade make similar impacts on farmers, supporting a false assumption some uninformed consumers may make. This shows just how important it is for consumers to dig a little deeper to find all the facts about these two movements. It also shows the need for Direct Trade advocates to make more information about Fair Trade and Direct Trade available to consumers.

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Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Infographic <<http://www.tazachocolate.com/About/Direct_Trade_Infographic>&gt;

A pioneer in this movement is Taza Chocolate. Taza Chocolate’s efforts to be as transparent as possible include “Taza Cacao Sourcing Transparency Reports” and a number of web pages detailing the methodology behind Direct Trade (Taza Chocolate). The infographic to the right shows an overview of Taza’s cacao sourcing process. Taza Chocolate’s website (tazachocolate.com) also contains a page detailing the differences between Fair Trade and Direct Trade, and they make sure to support their choice to source their cacao beans via direct trade. These pages not only serve to inform consumers about Taza’s own products, but they also serve to inform consumers about the benefits of purchasing other Direct Trade products. The company is aware that “direct trade standards vary between producers,” so they created a chart listing their “Five Direct Trade Principles” in order to clarify Taza’s standards for Direct Trade (Martin; Taza Chocolate). Taza commits to “work[ing] exclusively with USDA Certified Organic cacao farms that practice sustainable agriculture,” to “pay a premium of at least 500 US dollars per metric ton above the NY International Commodities exchange price on the date of invoice directly to cacao farmers,” to “physically visit each cacao farmer or cacao farmer cooperative at least once a year to build long-term, sustainable relationships,” to “only buy cacao from farmers and farmer cooperatives that ensure fair and humane work,” and finally to “never purchase cacao from farmers of farmer cooperatives that engage in child or slave labor” (Taza Chocolate). Taza’s commitment to transparency is clear. Their standards for Direct Trade maintain their desire to produce a quality chocolate product from quality cacao beans, and they ensure that their exchange and interactions with cacao farmers are fair in terms of pay and working conditions for farmers. Taza goes a step further in terms of transparency by using third parties to certify three main claims (Taza Chocolate). According to Taza, Quality Certification Services and a USDA-accredited organic certifier verify annually that Taza maintains“direct relationships with cacao producers,”  pays their set “premium price” to cacao producers, and continues to “purchase high quality cacao beans” (Taza Chocolate). Taza’s sourcing transparency is a model for all companies looking to source their products via direct trade, but Taza’s transparency also brings forth some concerns about inconsistencies in Direct Trade standards amongst other producers claiming to source their products via Direct Trade.

The Direct Trade model does eliminate most of the issues buyers have with the Fair Trade USA certification system, but there is room for inconsistency due to the lack of set standards for Direct Trade. Buyers who directly source from farmers can have different standards when it comes to what a premium price is, what quality cacao is, and what the expectations are in terms of purchasing cacao from farms with fair working conditions (Martin). Some chocolate makers such as Dandelion Chocolate seem to be following in the footsteps of Taza Chocolate in terms of the transparency of their cacao sourcing process. Dandelion Chocolate released a “2014 Sourcing Report” (found here: <<http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/our-beans/#anchor>&gt;) detailing the origins of the beans they used to make their chocolate bars (Our Beans). A page from the sourcing report is shown below, and it shows just how detailed Dandelion Chocolate chose to be about the farms from which they purchased their cacao beans. In the reports they include details about the country in which the cacao was grown, the specific fermentation process, and the specific drying process used by the farmers (Gore). This is important to both the consumer and Dandelion Chocolate as they emphasize their desire to highlight the flavor of their beans in each chocolate bar they make (Our Beans). In the sourcing report they also included details on prices per metric ton paid for the different types of beans and some notes on the labor practices on the farms (Gore). While Dandelion does provide a vast array of details regarding their sources, their claims are more vague and they are not clearly listed as commitments the company promises to keep. Taza’s standards may not necessarily be the only fair standards, but a clear statement of the company’s standards and proof of verification add value to the Direct Trade claim. Dandelion Chocolate’s transparency and detail with regard to their cacao sourcing process is still far greater than that of many chocolate makers. For example, while Undone Chocolate claims that their bars are “made with ingredients full of integrity,” there is not much information in terms of their cacao sourcing provided on the company’s website (Bean to Bar). The website does mention that their beans are “sourced from small producers” and that they pay $500 over market price per ton of cacao, but the lack of detail about the source of their beans leaves unanswered questions (Bean to Bar).While Undone Chocolate may be maintaining standards similar to those of Taza Chocolate and Dandelion Chocolate, the lack of transparency does not allow us to assume that these standards are met.

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A page from Dandelion Chocolate’s 2014 Sourcing Report <<http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/our-beans/#anchor>&gt;

Ultimately, the success of Direct Trade in the chocolate industry depends on the level of transparency chocolate makers choose to use. More transparency with regards to cacao sourcing and a verification of this process keeps individual chocolate makers accountable for the standards they set for themselves. This transparency allows Direct Trade certification to maintain its value in the eyes of consumers and avoid losing credibility much like the Fair Trade USA certification already has. Direct Trade truly has the potential to make the chocolate industry one that is ethically sourced, and companies like Taza and Dandelion Chocolate are already leading the way.


Works Cited

“Bean to Bar.” Undone Chocolate. Undone Chocolate, 2014. Web. 03 May 2015.

Fair Trade Certified. “Buy Fair. Be Fair.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 27 September 2013. Web. 03 May 2015.

Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, 2015. Web. 03 May 2015.

Gore, Molly. “Dandelion Chocolate 2014 Sourcing Report.” 2014. Dandelion Chocolate. Digital File. 03 May 2015.

Gore, Molly. “Dandelion Chocolate 2014 Sourcing Chart.” 2014. Dandelion Chocolate. Digital File. 03 May 2015.

Leissle, Kristy. “What’s Fairer than Fair Trade? Try Direct Trade with Cocoa Farmers.” YES! Magazine. YES! Magazine, 04 October 2013. Web. 03 May 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Alternative Trade and Virtuous Localization/Globalization.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 06 April 2015. Class Lecture.

“Our Beans.” Dandelion Chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate, 2015. Web. 03 May 2015.

PBS Food. “Fair Trade vs. Direct Trade.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 08 May 2014. Web. 03 May 2015.

Shute, Nancy. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers Dare to Bare How It’s Done .” NPR: The Salt. NPR, 14 February 2013. Web. 03 May 2015.

“Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Certified Cacao.” Taza Chocolate. Taza Chocolate, 2015. Web. 03 May 2015.

“Taza Chocolate Direct Trade Infographic.” 2015. Taza Chocolate. Digital File. 03 May 2015.

Rebranding Sexualized Chocolate Ads

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Dove Chocolate Ad (2007)

Controversial advertisements are all around us. They pop up during commercial breaks, fill the pages of our magazines, and even make their way onto our social media feeds. Due to the fact that we come across so many ads throughout the day, companies go to great lengths to make their ads stand out. Sparking controversy is one way to catch the attention of the public, and many companies take advantage of this phenomenon to promote their brand. Many of these ads play on gender roles, use racial stereotypes, sexualize both men and women. In order to “rebrand” these types of advertisements, we must eliminate connections made between the product with race, ethnicity, and gender.

The ad to the right uses a black man’s muscular abs to promote Dove Chocolate. The small chocolate bar on the bottom corner of the ad suggests that the chocolate bar should be compared to this man’s dark, well defined abdominal muscles. The advertising slogan, “six pack that melts a girls heart,” makes this connection all the more clear. The slogan and image of the actual chocolate bar suggest that the shape and color of the six piece chocolate bar is just as enticing to a woman as the man’s muscular body. This ad sexualizes and objectifies the man by suggesting that a woman want to eat him just a much as they want to eat a chocolate bar. This is also offensive to women as it assumes a connection between a woman’s desire for chocolate and her desire for men. This assumption also plays on the idea that women become irrational when it comes to chocolate (Martin). Finally, the ad also creates a connection between temptation and blackness. The man’s dark  skin is supposed to make the chocolate all the more sinful, desirable, and indulgent (Martin).

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Original Oompa-Loompas

Dove is not the only company to put out advertisements such as the one described above, and these companies have been publishing these types of ads for a long time. Historically, blackness and chocolate have been used together in ads and even in stories such as Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Robertson 1). In Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, Robertson discusses the history of black men and women being used in chocolate ads and other chocolate-related tales. One example is of the Oompa-Loompas from the original Willy Wonka (1). The original Oompa-Loompas (pictured above) were black, and “the young-white working-class hero of the tale, Charlie Bucket, asks if they are made of chocolate” (1). This suggests that black people (or even Oompa-Loompas) have been depicted as edible objects throughout history, While this Oompa-Loompa example isn’t sexualized or gendered, it does illuminate the fact that the idea of blackness has been connected to chocolate for decades.

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“Rebranded” Chocolate Ad

In order to “rebrand” the Dove Chocolate  ad, we must break the historical connection between blackness and chocolate. The ad to the left, made in response to the original Dove Chocolate ad, attempts to do just that. By replacing the black man’s abs with a white man’s average body, we eliminate any tie between blackness and chocolate. The new slogan, “chocolate that I enjoy, just because its good” also focuses the ad on the product rather than the sexualization of a man. The man in the picture holding up his two thumbs is there to show that anyone can enjoy the chocolate. Thus, this ad is no longer directed at women and their “desire” for chocolate. This ad is still not perfect as it still objectifies the man pictured by only including his body. Although it is not perfect, it does get rid the of the sexual, racial, and gender stereotypes included in the original ad. Plus, this ad could be just as successful as the first. It may not be alluring, but this ad is definitely weird and humorous because of its simplicity.

In an ideal world, all advertisements would be “rebranded” to eliminate all stereotypes including those involving race, gender, and ethnicity. Some groups have taken steps to do this. In Leissle’s article, she shows how rebranded advertisements for Divine Chocolate “disrupt narratives” used in the advertising world today (Leissle 136). While she admits that the ads focusing on the African female cacao farmers are not perfect, they do well in focusing on the products and eliminating negative perceptions of cacao farming (Leissle). Prejudices and stereotypes may not be so easy to remedy but starting with advertisement “rebranding” is a step in the right direction.


Works Cited

Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 30 March 2015. Class Lecture.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-139. Web.

“Original Oompa-Loompas.” <http://www.philnel.com/2010/09/19/censoring-ideology/&gt; 09 April 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.

“Six Pack that Melts a Girl’s Heart.” 2007. Dove Chocolate, Mars Company. Digital File. 09 April 2015.

Sugar: A Guilty Pleasure

Listening to the latest pop hit, spending hours watching Netflix, and binge eating sweets can all be examples of guilty pleasures. Today, we typically describe a guilty pleasure as something we enjoy doing even though we may feel guilty about finding joy in it. This feeling of guilt may come from knowing that we should not be doing those things or from thinking that others will judge us for liking those things. When people think of sugar as a guilty pleasure today, they usually do so because of sugar’s health effects. While our increasing sugar consumption is a concern, sugar as a guilty pleasure takes on a new level of meaning when the history of sugar is considered.

Our current perception of sugar as a guilty pleasure comes from growing consciousness about one’s daily consumption of sugar. The video above highlights the “shocking” amounts of sugar people consume per day (BuzzFeed). Advertisements and other forms of media such as this video give sugar consumption a negative stigma. That is, they create the sense that others will judge people for how much sugar they consume. Despite this stigma, people are still consuming sugar. In fact, Americans consume about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, more than the recommended 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women (American Heart Association). This data suggests that people still enjoy consuming sugar whether it is in the form of soda or a pastry. The negative stigma sugar has in terms of health, thus, makes it a guilty pleasure for those who are health conscious.

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“Boiling House, Antigua”

When considering the history of sugar, the term “guilty pleasure” is taken to a deeper level of meaning. Sugar and slavery went hand in hand. In fact, “sugar produced a greater influx of slaves than other crops” (Martin). Forced, gruesome labor produced sugar for the Europeans after colonization of the New World (Martin). Sugar production was not a simple task, and enslaved laborers were forced to work “continuously in shifts lasting all day and part of the night, or the whole of every second or third night” (Mintz 49). The image to the left depicts a sugar boiling house where “heat and noise were overpowering” and “there was considerable danger involved” for the sugar boilers (Mintz 49). Despite this, sugar consumption did not come to a halt . While some were against forced labor, most consumed sugar without even considering the work slaves had to do produce the white, granulated sugar Europeans loved (Martin).

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“On Sugar”

While consumers of sugar may or may not have known about the specific conditions on sugar plantations at the time, sugar was still a guilty pleasure. People consumed and enjoyed sugar while others, specifically the enslaved, drained themselves working on sugar plantations. The text in the image to the right says it best, “Go guilty, tho’, seducing food / purchased by many a brothers blood” (On Sugar). The sweet, delectable taste of sugar was tempting to eat, but those conscious of the price the slaves paid to produce sugar, consumed it guiltily.

Today, the typical  feeling of guilt that comes with a “guilty pleasure” is rooted in our desire to steer away from the judgement of others. We do not want others to know we love the new Taylor Swift CD, but we listen to it anyway. This feeling of guilt can also come from our desire to stick to the standards we set for ourselves. That is, if I choose to eat an extra piece of cake and break my calorie count for the day, I may feel guilty afterwards because I really wanted to stick to my diet. In turn, sugar as a guilty pleasure in its historical context considers what goes into making the products we consume. A report in 2013 suggests that “up to 880,000 people were being exploited” in the European workforce (Kelly). This suggests that forced labor is still used and can very well be part of the production of some of our favorite products. This notion may make us reconsider what our guilty pleasures really are today.


Works Cited

American Heart Association. Sugar 101. American Heart Association, 2014. Web. 09 March 2015.

BuzzFeed. “Shocking Amounts of Sugar People Eat Around the World.” Online video clip.YouTube. YouTube, 07 September 2014. Web. 09 March 2015.

Clark, William. “Boiling House, Antigua.” 1823. British Library. Digital File.  <http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/carviews/b/022zzz0001786c9u00006000.html&gt;

Kelly, Annie. “European Governments Oblivious to Forced Labour Conditions.” The Guardian, 2013. Web. 10 March 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 02 March 2015. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sydney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books, 1985. Print.

“On Sugar.” n.d. University of Michigan. Digital File. <http://clements.umich.edu/exhibits/online/sugarexhibit/sugar06.php&gt;

The Evolution of “Hot Chocolate”

Today, it is not so uncommon to walk into a coffee shop and order a classic hot chocolate, but the sweet, rich flavor we know and love now has not always characterized a typical “hot chocolate” drink. In fact, the first “hot chocolate” was served cold and had no sugar at all (Martin). The Aztecs and Mayans had very basic chocolate drinks, and one of the first descriptions of the Aztec chocolate drink by a European, Girolamo Benzoni, was that chocolate “seemed more like a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity” (Coe and Coe 110). It was not until European intervention that sugar was added to those drinks (Martin). Europe’s addition of sugar to indigenous “hot chocolate” beverages transformed the drink from a cold, bitter drink to the warm, delectable drink we know today, and this transformation helped contribute to the expansion of chocolate consumption.

One of the first known chocolate drinks was made and consumed by the Mayans and Aztecs. This drink, known as cacahuatl, was made of cacao, ground maize, water, and sometimes chili, vanilla, or other indigenous spices (Miller). The video above shown in lecture shows a woman preparing a Mayan chocolate drink. The great care taken when grinding the cacao highlights the importance of the chocolate drink to the indigenous people (Martin). While the Aztecs and the Mayans enjoyed and respected this drink, the Europeans were not so fond of the bitter taste. As previously mentioned, Girolamo Benzoni was one of the first Europeans to record his experience with the cacahuatl, and he added that “the taste is somewhat bitter, it satisfies and refreshes the body, but does not inebriate” (Coe and Coe 110). That is, to the Europeans this chocolate drink was an acquired taste, and even after getting used to the taste, it was not necessarily desirable (Martin).

The Europeans solved the “bitterness problem” by adding their own ingredients to the original chocolate drink. Specifically, the Spaniards added sugar and spices such as cinnamon, anise, and black pepper (Miller). These more familiar ingredients were likely added to make the chocolate drink more appealing to the palates of the Europeans at the time.The video above details European intervention in chocolate recipes, including the addition of sugar, spices, and eventually, milk. While modifications to hot chocolate recipes continue today, sugar is still a main ingredient, and a drink made of cacao, water, and cornmeal would still be considered an acquired taste. This makes it difficult to picture cacahuatl making it onto the menu of a typical coffee shop such as Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, but it does give a new perspective as to how the addition of sugar to chocolate recipes helped increase chocolate consumption.

When the Europeans added sugar to the basic chocolate drink, the sugar changed the flavor of the drink. This change in flavor satisfied the “sweet tooth” of the European population at the time, and because of this, more people were inclined to try the chocolate drink, and soon, chocolate houses became a common social venue (Martin). The spread of chocolate truly began once the chocolate drink started to satisfy the palates of a greater number of people. The expansion of chocolate continues today as new ingredients are added to create more complex hot chocolate recipes like the ones described in the video above. Just like sugar, ingredients such as peanut butter, caramel, and nutella serve to alter the flavor as to satisfy all sorts of tastes. This new wave of modifications is even diverging from sweet hot chocolate at times to appeal to those looking for salty, savory, or even spicy chocolate drinks. All of these changes serve to appeal to a wider range of people and sustain the chocolate culture we know today.


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 11 February 2015. Class Lecture.

Miller, Ashley. Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Cornell University, 2007. Web. 19 February 2015.

Montesinos, Veronica. “The Story of Chocolate.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 April 2011. Web. 19 February 2015.

Simply Bakings. “3 DIY Hot Chocolate Recipes.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 December 2014. Web. 19 February 2015.

Toledo Ecotourism Association. “Making a Chocolate Drink.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 May 2008. Web. 19 February 2015.